(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 5

This blog was originally published
April 22, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Image: Diane Hammerling

When I first heard Angela Cassie’s presentation to TEDxWinnipeg (previously TEDxManitoba), I remember being struck by the reflective quality of her voice and mannerism. The invitational cadence of her own story and sharing about her own experience of racism with which she began and the mounting passion, which arises in a flourish near the end, was emboldening. As I have revisited it, I have only been further drawn into the manner in which she introduced the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and its mandate approximately 100 days prior to its opening in Winnipeg.

As with each of the TEDx episodes of A Deacon’s Musing, there is so much richness, challenge and potential to explore that only one blog is admittedly cursory at best. As such, I though I would share two particular items that have drawn my attention during this revisiting of that 2014 experience.

While The United Church of Canada (and Winnipeg Presbytery specifically) endeavours to embrace and live into being an Intercultural Church, underlying this intention is human rights. Furthermore, the place where and how faith communities and the secular meet in celebrating and – just as importantly – protecting diversity and dignity arises. As Angela reminds us, this is not an easy or simple task. It is, however, central to what we (as Christians) call the Good News.

World Peace

World Peace
Image: Aia Fernandez

As a Christian community, we have wrestled with such difficult (and at times polarising) issues that range from gender equality, dignity regardless of sexual identity or orientation to acknowledging the reality of racism, privilege. In these noble – and sometimes horribly faulty attempts – pursuits, we long to help all people shine. In such intention, we are reminded by Angela that not only do we all have a human rights story from our own lives, but that this inter-connexion translates into each of us having a responsibility to ensure that the world is a place open to hearing stories of those who are too often silenced!

The second point that resonates – upon this revisiting – is that when people are allowed to share their story, the power of human resilience and passion in our vulnerability, which arises from stories shadow filled and tear laden, the only response is often humbled silence. In this place of humility, compassion and listening, such a dream (that is this Canadian museum) connects people of faith and the secular in recognising that dignity is embraced not in the wrongs, but in the rights this institution endeavours to highlight.

As with all human institutions, they reflect our intention. At times, our species’ intention has been less than humane – often occurring when we are frightened. But when we choose to highlight the best we have been, in order to aspire to that which we believe might be our best, such collections of stories help us begin to imagine ways to not only avoid such wrongs, but begin to fashion a city, society, culture and world in which we might begin to recognise that the rights are the foundational blocks of a brave new world, which we (as Christians) sometimes understand as the Social Gospel where our collective common good embraces not just everyone, but all of Creation … and that feels like Good News indeed!

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.

 

Episodes

Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?

 

Blog links:

 WPGPres: Intercultural Ministry
Wikipedia: Good News
 Wikipedia: Social Gospel
 Wikipedia: TED
 YouTube: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights? (TEDxWinnipeg: Angela Cassie)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Structure & Passion

This blog was originally published
March 04, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

“Structures and passion? A church blog, Seriously?”

As we are close to halfway through the Christian season called Lent, reflection is a constant touchstone. It seemed to me that these two realities – structure and passion – would be an appropriate matter about which to muse …

Think of these two ideas as dance partners and – right now – it seems that our wee The United Church of Canada (UCC) is trying to find the right harmony, the right tune, rhythm or rhyme to get this party started! And – if we are to be honest – that’s proving to be somewhat of a challenge.

broken structure

broken structure
Image: Scott Swigart

In the world of organisational change and culture shifting, whenever any group of people are together – whether they gather as a church denomination, non-profit group, business or family – change is inevitable. How we live into that, however, can unleash creativity, playful wonder, and curiosity or entrench a sense of oppression, cynicism, and even apathy. How we do that with intention can propel our imagination or quench the fire within. I think it is fair to say that for many – in the UCC – we know the stage has been set, we’re just waiting to see if anyone will show up with their invitations in hand!

Part of the disconnect I have experienced, is that our structures are grounded in a time called modernity. A time that began to shift in the late 1950s. In a modern context, answers and binaries are valued. Certainty and identity are found in affiliations, degrees and designations. Though our structures and the way they operate – sometimes called governance and polity – have a long history, they are confronting values and ways of being sometimes described as the postmodern.

Through a postmodern lens of the world, there is comfort in paradox and uncertainty. There is often a sense that change is the new norm and that embracing it can be exciting. Often the relationship between the modern and postmodern is tense, anxious feeling and disheartening. For those who long for certainty, postmodernity seems wishy-washy and ambiguous. For the postmodern, the binaries and right & wrong of the old structures feels judgemental and stifling. Needless to say, these eddies and waves, undercurrents and tides are awash in the UCC. And – unfortunately – these two partners often find themselves looking at one another from across the dance floor dressed in differing generational costumes. The music’s playing, the party is started, but no one is dancing.

purple passion

purple passion
Image: Anthony Easton

For the last few years, the UCC has been focused on structures as a way to address this tension. Though there is certainly value in figuring how to do things that might release energy and time, often the underlying motivation has been fiscal in nature. Such a rationale, however can be a challenge, if that for which people long is passion’s embrace: a desire to connect with the underlying mission that emboldens people to do wild and weird stuff called ministry. In Christian speak, the passion for which we long is intimately grounded in the ‘Good News.’

As I pause near the end of this week’s blog, I am sitting in a gathering of Sisters and Brothers who have gathered from throughout the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Needless to say, the geography those of us gathered represent is vast and diverse. Needless to say, these structure conversations have arisen. Needless to say, that the uncertainty implicit in structural change has not been – necessarily – life-giving. I would not claim that is a universal experience, but I am struck by the idea of ‘flow.’

Flow is one of those ideas often associated with passion. It’s that synergy or connexion when time seems to disappear. As flow recedes, often the clocks hands have shifted dramatically, there’s a sense of fatigue and – ultimately – a sense of accomplishment. I hope – as this gathering draws to an end – there will be a sense that this was faithful time well-spent.

  • As we – as a denomination – realise we are now walking into structural change, and regardless of how we have arrived at this juncture, where is your passion?
  • Where is our sense of collective mission?
  • How might we tap into memories that connect with the transformative potential called faith?

These are the questions and encouragements that now invite us into dreaming dreams. Hopefully these new ways of being as the UCC tap into and honour our stories, as individuals, congregations and as a denomination. Stories that may be particular to our context, but speak to a universal thread that helps us shine bravely in the midst of shadows that gather in this time called Lent

Blog links:

 Image: passion
 Image: structure
 Wikipedia: Flow
 Wikipedia: Lent

 Wikipedia: Modernity
 Wikipedia: Postmodernity
 Wikipedia: The United Church of Canada
 YouTube: Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: Lent|Mindfulness

This blog was originally published
February 12, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

A Lenten Collection

A Lenten Collection

Lent: We walk into the gathering danger & doubt surrounding Jesus as he made choices that led to the Cross.
This is a time of preparation & reflection.
Where have you been this year & where might you be going?
What are the things that have kept your journey on pause?
What are the choices you have made that you would like to revisit?
A Lenten Collection

Contemplation

Contemplation
Image: Simon Powell

Mindfulness is a great word – especially in context of exploring the Christian practice of Lent. It’s a helpful word particularly because it enjoys a general acceptance in popular culture. As a result, it does not suffer from the assumptions that often limit conversation about religion. In other words, conversations about mindfulness are not associated with organised religion, which in our current cultural context often leads to awkward conversations.

However, one of the challenges is that often there is a sense of competition or either/or between spirituality and religion. You can’t be mindful if you’re a Christian, since the media often portrays of Christian spiritual practices as being judgemental others or as advocating in ways that are framed as politically conservative: even prayer can become a tool for public control, as opposed to an inward journey to awakening.

These challenges often detract from mindful Christian disciplines that stretch back to the third century, if not earlier, where they were practiced by those who are known as the ‘Desert Fathers.’ One of these mindful practices – sometimes called contemplative or centring prayer – is grounded in the intention of inward reflection and connecting beyond that which tempts our ego, a challenge in a consumer culture.

There have been different historic expressions of what this Lenten journey is about and how to practice its invitation to walk into the shadows. These rituals and disciplines have been and should be both an external/communal exploration, as well as an inner/personal one. The difficulty, however, is when one is preferenced. Or, as we have discussed, when there is a perception that only an external practice is pursued.

For Christians, this time is about preparing for a difficult exploration in which we acknowledge that the human choices that surrounded Jesus ultimately led to his execution by the Roman Empire. This political act, intended to undermine any resistance through the brutality of the spectacle, left the disciples feeling lost, disarrayed and fearful. There was no Good News the first time those 40 days unfolded – there was no awakening or resurrection. There was no miracle … yet!

Desert Fathers

Desert Fathers
Image: Fra Angelico (1420)

I think that mindful or contemplative practices allow a way for deeper digging and exploration that gets us away from the distractions around us. They allow us to be in the Now, the present, in a way that can lead to curiosity. When we wonder, it often allows us to wrestle with difficult questions, which might otherwise lead us to judge and shame one another and/or ourselves. Shame and judgement ultimately do not motivate us to compassion, self-sacrifice or hope.

Often – from a secular vantage – Christianity does not appear to be a compassionate religion. And – as with any system, person or organisation – when one experiences a negative appraisal, it is easy to become defensive. This sadly creates a feedback loop, in which a sort of self-fulfilling-prophecy occurs when defensiveness leads one to enact those initial critiques. Often one responds by debating the critique or by withdrawing from the conversation. If we are mindful, however, perhaps using the ancient disciplines of contemplation and centring, we might hear those challenges in a way that leads to unexpected generative responses. If we get out of our head, making space for silence, we might hear the Holy speaking to us; to the church …

• As we walk into this Lenten season,
what practices might you consider that could allow you to take a step back and listen?
• How does imagining doing that feel to you?
• Where in your body is that sensation?
• If you take a deep breath, and focus only on that sensation, what happens?
• And – as you let that breath go – what might you hear?

Blog links:

 Image: Contemplation
 Image: Desert Fathers
 Wikipedia: Centring Prayer

 Wikipedia: Lent
 Wikipedia: Mindfulness
 Vancouver Sun: Prayer versus meditation?
 YouTube: The Practice of Mindfulness

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 4

This blog was originally published
February 6, 2016 by Winnipeg Presbytery

Guns & Ammo 2

Guns & Ammo 2
Image: Ken

“What will you do after the bullets miss you?” Brian Bowman asked during TEDxManitoba (now TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. Watching the video again reminded me how striking his sharing and vulnerability were two years ago. As he described his experience of violence during an internship in Mexico, I felt a clear connexion with my position writing from a faith-based context. What was further challenging and hopeful was what he did with his experience: he framed it as an opportunity for each of us present. He explicitly asked how we might find ways to collaboratively respond to the changes that we see that are needed in Winnipeg.

Much has changed since that presentation. Brian Bowman is now the Mayor of Winnipeg; the city has been labelled the most racist city in Canada. There has been a refugee crisis resulting from the ongoing conflict in Syria and we are now entering a time intended to be a Year of Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

Two years, and the world has changed.
Two years, and the questions and challenges remain.

  • In the moments that awaken you to the hurting in the world, how might you respond to heal it and be healed?
  • What choices arise when your eyes are opened to the harm of stereotyping?
  • What possibilities emerge when we hear and listen to those crying out from the shadows?

In Bowman’s presentation, what Brian refers to as the ‘bullet moment’ might best be paralleled – from a faith-based Christian perspective – as the moment in which one is born again or a time of epiphany or revelation. And, true to the experience in which the bullet moment inspired Brian, unfortunately it is often in crisis or violence when such awakening occurs.

the Peg

the Peg
Image: Carolynn Primeau

It is not (often) in places of comfort or privilege, which are afforded by many church contexts, that one recognises ways to be the change. Rather, it is often in places of vulnerability and/or solidarity when new choices are revealed, when unexpected doors are opened. It is frequently in those places and spaces where those of us who are accustomed to control are shaken to our core that we realise the fragility of the narrative we tell of ourselves about what is safety.

As we confront these illusions, the moorings become loosened and, in the face of the unknown, we often stand trembling. Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to threats with adrenaline, which leads to the instinctive responses of flight or fight. But there is a gift in such moments, often arising with reflection and discernment, but that luxury is not always possible. So – if in moments in which death is present – we but take a breath, the gift of centring ourselves in such instability, it is possible that people of faith and the church might hear a very old invitation. This invitation is perhaps is easy to forget in the lulling temptation of comfort, asking us: “what will you do if you are saved?”

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.

 

Episodes

Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?

 

Blog links:

 CBC: Year of Reconciliation
 Image: Guns & Ammo
 Image: peg

 TEDxWinnipeg
 Wikipedia: Syrian Refugees
Wikipedia: TED
 YouTube: What do you do after the bullets miss you? (TEDxWinnipeg: Brian Bowman)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 3

McDougall Memorial United Church

McDougall Memorial United Church
Image: Eric Lamoureux

In this TED|Episode of A Deacon’s Musing, I am excited to explore Althea Guiboche’s TEDxManitoba 2014 presentation entitled Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had.

I do not think that the challenges and realities that Althea shares during her TED Talk would be ‘new’ (per se) for many people who identify themselves as having a connexion with The United Church of Canada. We are a people for whom social justice and Right Relations are part and parcel for what it means to be a person who wrestles with faith, confession and forgiveness.

During last June’s presentation, Althea’s candour, honesty, and vulnerability are all testament to a strength and tenacity of a particular person – the Bannock woman. It also reflects a larger resilience of those whom we – the dominant colonial culture – have previously tried to change, mould and shape into what we thought was the way a people – Canada’s First Nations – should be. And though we – in the UCC – continue to endeavour to live into our apologies, to right the mistakes we have made (whether they be waving the banner of Christendom, colonialism via treaties broken, the Residential Schools or the Sixties Scoop), I do not think that is how this musing shall unfold. In fact – though there will always be work that remains – I think we have confronted some of our choices with our own courage. By looking into that mirror, I am hopeful we have begun to embrace the power of humility, which leads to solidarity, as opposed to the oppression of others.

Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Image: Neeta Lind

What I am and have been musing about as I prepared for this Episode is whether or not we are actually able to listen this time? Althea clearly knows what is needed. From her own experience, she names where she and her Village have been and then issues a challenge about what is required to address homelessness, poverty and illiteracy.

In fact, she articulates it so well, I was sort of struck by the ease with which her own story indicates how we – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people – might actually affect change in a timely way. In a way that would afford those currently experiencing exploitation the ability to claim their dignity now! This nimbleness obviously stands in stark contradiction to the pace that either the church or other public institutions sometimes move: the narrative here and there is slow, pondering and often frustrating.

And what is required of us is both simple, though not easy, and possible, though a challenge. As inheritors of privilege and a narrative of colonialism and Christendom, can the church let go of having believed we have the answers and realise that all people – in this case Althea and her Village – actually have wisdom to affect change and agency to do so? In some cases, we may simply have to get out of the way … and in others we might be invited into the conversation. Question is … can we enter into such dialogue without presuming and assuming what will work … ?

A tall order, perhaps, but after hearing Althea speak on that day, if we had to choose and realise our ego is not ready to shed control, the least we might do – as church – this time is simply get out of the way and wait to be invited in …

What do you think?

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.

Episodes

Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?

 

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|#socialmedia

1994/1995 Flatland BBS Menu Screen

1994/1995 Flatland BBS Menu Screen
Image: Tim Patterson

It really is an honour to be exploring one’s vocation – career – with an organisation (such as The United Church of Canada) that recognises the need to note the importance of social media in our culture. And – in turn – also realise that those in church leadership have a responsibility to understand boundaries in this context. Perhaps – more importantly – such discussions remind us that we need to know our stuff, our stories, and our triggers if we are going to engage in this varied medium

I’ve blogged several times about social media, but I think it is worth sharing some very larger and – albeit – over-arching realities that confront may NGOs, non-profits and (more specifically) faith-based institutions:

  • Those not in church and/or unchurched have the following responses to faith-based organisations: indifferent, irrelevant, perceived as hypocritical and/or judgemental;
  • Those in church can often judge or dismiss social media and those who use them. Such a response is often unconscious and can limit an appreciation of the import of the medium in people’s lives;
  • The United Church of Canada’s core values and those within a secular context of the unchurched are often aligned. For instance: Encourages questioning; Respects personal freedom and choice; Builds relationship with other traditions; and, Celebrates all, including Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered persons;
  • Social media, though certainly a tool, is also a medium grounded in a desire for relationship; and,
  • Regardless of how one feels about the medium it is the social milieu in which a majority of people now congregate, meet for the first time, acquire information and explore questions as intimate as sexuality, marriage and death.

So let me briefly share that I have been online a long, long, long time … I think before special effects were digitised 😉 I was doing research in my undergrad when everything was simply links of text and Bulletin Board threads bled downward forever! I have and do manage online communities (the longest relationship is now entering its second decade!). In the time I have been online, I have seen the anonymity of the internet bring out the most generous nature of people that humbles. As well, I have seen that such anonymity also can lead to bullying. In general, I have experienced the internet, online communities and social media as the closest manifestation of true democracy in which those who are in relationship navigate self-organisation, which more often than naught leads to respectful, civil and compassionate communities.

Why this brief sharing is important is that for many in the church this is a completely new environment. As a result, though we may have had the experience of exploring leadership in respect to boundaries and self-knowing, the lines are quickly blurred and – in some cases – even lost in the digital realm. As I have said during leadership training opportunities in which I have had the honour to facilitate: “If you don’t know your stuff (I admit I may use another word), you’re (at the very least) going to hurt someone and there’s the distinct possibility that hurt could be fatal.” And – though I can hear the challenge of ‘melodrama’ – all I can ask is that you trust me: it has, does and will happen.

Theory of Boundaries (1969-70)

Theory of Boundaries (1969-70)
Image: Cliff

I also hope this brief blog exploration is not too ‘preachy’ and ‘know-it-all-ish.’ But (I do often avoid this conjunction) if we do not do this inner-work of knowing about boundaries, what’s appropriate in an environment filled with ambiguity stuff can get very bad, very quickly: for instance, whether that’s of our own doing or missing cues such as bullying, harassment or abuse in others.. And (a conjunction I much prefer) if we do that self-knowing exploration well, social media presents opportunities for relationships that inspire and humble. I have had deep theological conversations, provided profound pastoral care and laughed aloud in ways – which I do not mean to imply are more or less real than face-face – that have led to embodied relationships with people around the world whom I otherwise would never know.

To use church-speak as a way to wrap this musing up: if we are called to model discipleship in a world that is much changed, is longing for relationship, and significantly different than when our denomination formed almost 90 years ago, it would be worthwhile reminding and remembering that Jesus’ commission was to go into people’s lives and not to wait for them to come to us. It really is amazing when you walk into the Stranger’s home: for in such places of humility, we may very well find all of us are changed in the sharing of what propels us into the unknown: the Good News ….

Blog links:

 Wikipedia: Leadership
 YouTube: How social media can make history (Clay Shirky)

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 2

In this second TED|Episode of A Deacon’s Musing, I am excited to explore David Gingera’s presentation TEDxManitoba 2014 presentation entitled Farming Our Future (The Urban Agriculture Revolution).

There are several things that drew me to highlight this particular presentation as the first one by which I honour my commitment to TEDxManitoba. Three words (specifically) that I think translate well between the secular context of TED and a faith-based one such as The United Church of Canada are ‘adventure,’ ‘community’ and ‘nature’ or (in church-ese) ‘Creation.’ I admit there are many more, but for the sake of a blog, I thought I would start here!

Adventures

Adventures
Image: Janet Ramsden

I remember watching David present. As he did so, he first grounded the experience in the theme of adventure. As people of faith, adventure really should be our middle name! It doesn’t mean the experience is always fun or easy, but its a journey that often leads to awakening, revelation and even innovation! Walking the path of adventure – when done with intention – allows us to see everything anew, potential-filled and wonder-abundant.

The second word ‘community,’ which David used, instantly reminded me of friends who are already urban farming, running/involved in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives or are reflecting upon food security from a faith-based context. Furthermore, David reminded us that what was central to the experience of food production 200 years ago was ultimately the community. Not that the product wasn’t important – let’s face it life gets dicey without food! – but it was in the relationships, the shared sustenance, the knowing of one another’s story that food was less a consumable commodity and more like the binding threads that form a tapestry. I think David demonstrated well how – 200 years later – food production has moved away from the community and the stories that make us who we are. We have become removed from the intimacy of food production and the mutuality that can arise when you know the person from whom you have acquired the day’s meal and the reciprocal gratitude for valuing such labour.

The other word that I want to explore, which seems important to me, is the ‘Creation.’ For David, this removal from the system of food production has been detrimental to the environment. As he asks (perhaps rhetorically): is it okay that those who grow food must wear hazmat gear in order to fertilise and harvest? What are the implication for the quality of the food that arrives on our table, the health of those who grow and prepare it and (ultimately) well-being of the environment? As a people of faith, if we understand ourselves as Stewards of Creation – that we are meant to nurture and care for something that does not belong to us – does this reality of food production honour that role to which we understand ourselves to have been called?

Prairie Homestead

Prairie Homestead
Image: Shelly Manley-Tannis

There’s an old Christian concept called Jubilee and – connected to it – is the idea of Sabbath. Both of these very old ideas (in Christian-ese: theologies or ways of understanding God) reach back to a time in which agricultural health, economics and justice were intimately connected. A time in which people and the land were exploited and some had more to such an extent that indebtedness, slavery and oppression were the results of a system out of whack. In our Christian story, the response to this inequity was the idea of forgiveness of debt (Jubilee) and the fallow of land, in order that it might recharge and heal (Sabbath). These literal and metaphorical realities of our theology – I believe – speak well to the urban agriculture movement’s critique of mass farming production and its implicit challenge: and that question is who actually benefits?

I would not imply that the challenges before us are easy. It is also important to name that for many the idea of an ‘Urban Agricultural Revolution’ only highlights the realities of privilege. For many in our cities and towns, urban farming is simply too expensive to even contemplate. And, yes, this is also a justice issue. The larger connexion with Creation and our role as Stewards (I suspect) might lead to the possibility of naming common ground in this tension. Common ground in which both secular and faith-based individuals and organisations realise that the status quo – the consumerisation of food – can be navigated better when we walk with one another to seek solutions.

I believe that David’s particular focus highlights a more general theme of commonality that exists between state and church: the real question (well one of them from my/our faith-based location) is how might the church might listen to secular voices with humility, in order to begin to hear something which might invite all of us into a new adventure?

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.

Episodes

Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?

 

Blog links:

 Wikipedia: Jubilee
 Wikipedia: Sabbath
 Wikipedia: TED
 YouTube: Farming Our Future

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Meetings

Mindfulness

Mindfulness
Image: Yuya Tamai

What I find so very amazing is our capacity to live in tension. When we are intentional and mindful to the Now, even when we know our own stuff, it is humbling, mind-boggling at times when we let something new happen, even when we may have assumed what an outcome might be!

Okay … maybe I need to back-up …

This week I have had more than one opportunity to experience gatherings of Sisters and Brothers. These gatherings, some being meetings, were agenda driven and had outcomes and goals attached to them. In such situations, I often ask those with whom I sit at Table, whether that was a good use of their time. This feels like a helpful gauge or metric of someone offering their time …

So: Point 1 -> I have had or have been somehow involved in important meetings this week.

The other interesting thing that has threaded through this week is I have had more than one person say aloud ‘I like meetings.’ Now, whether that was a visiting family member or someone connected with church, there was silence and a smirk or two from some of the others who were present with such a pronunciation.

For me – I always look for these threads for a musing – I was excited! I too like … maybe even love … meetings! It’s where the work of faith gets done, it’s where intention meets actuality, it’s one of the places where practicing mindfulness is most important as men and women endeavour to hear one another and often help nurture dreams into the tangible! But when we are not mindful, our own stuff can get in the way, our own agenda can dominate and too often such meetings end with exhaustion and a definite sense that time was not well spent …

OMG

OMG
Photo: moedusa

So: Point 2 -> Meetings need to be grounded in mindful intention.

Here comes the culmination of this blog that started somewhat convolutedly … in Christian-ese when something new happens (which may be quite contrary to what we had presumed, assumed or intended to happen) this occurrence is sometimes referred to as ‘the Spirit moving’ or ‘Grace’s movement.’ In other contexts, some may call it serendipity, the Universe unfolding, or being open to change. I don’t want to imply that these words are actually different, as the reality (for me) is their intention highlights what happens when we let go. And that’s one of the phenomenal things I have seen happen more than once this week.

So: Conclusion -> This week, though assumptions, concern, perhaps apathy or even cynicism may have been present in more than one meeting this week, those present were mindful enough, self-aware to an extent that they did not get stuck there. In fact – my spin I admit it – knowing themselves, Sisters and Brothers were able to let that go and some amazing things happened. Things undreamt, choices unimagined and when I connect with them – even a few days later – there’s a discernible ‘glow’ and evident ‘passion’ of having done something new, surprising and potential filled.

It’s been, ultimately, a great week … so I’ll leave you Dear Reader with an invitation upon which to reflect and – as life and time permit – to share here, through social media or email:

• Where have you been surprised this week?
• Of what did you let go recently that ultimately led to something new?
• What’s it felt like for you
when you have created something new with others
that was not planned?

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing|Flow

I really do have great conversations that arise on account of Sisters and Brothers, seekers and questioners who choose to email, engage through social media and/or comment about items that directly or indirectly connect with A Deacon’s Musing. It’s humbling, sometimes surprising, and always wonderful to be invited into discussion I could not have imagined. Otherwise – and I’ll share an inner monologue, a self-knowing doubt, with you – I get concerned that all I do when I muse is navel gaze!

So this week, to my pleasant surprise, a friend and Brother from over the pond sent me an email that contained an excerpt from Judith E. Smith’s article: “This Ground is Holy Ground:”

My final question, ‘How will I know when I have reached the destination?’ brings me full circle, and I face the Mystery again. Perhaps the truth is that we never arrive, not because the journey is too long and too difficult but because we have been there all along. I am coming to believe that there is no final destination except to continue to be on the journey and to know that every place along the way is a holy place because God is present. I believe that God is calling us to stand on our own ground and know that it is holy and let our roots grow deep. And yet at the same time, the journey goes on. It is a paradox, I know, but perhaps we are traveling most faithfully when we know ourselves to be most at home.

Paradox

Paradox
Photo: John Talbot

In that email discussion – and my own reflections as the week has unfolded – we explored mysticism, ego and what some mystics call, ‘the dissolution of self.’ Various faiths have explored this idea and it has always fascinated me. In particular, at what point does a commitment to a discipline allow us to let go of our ego? This is even more important in this time of pluralism and fundamentalism, because confusing ego and faith can and does lead to the suppression, denigration and oppression of human dignity.

I have always wrestled with the question how we know when we have let go of our own agenda and ideology and let the Universe, God, the Holy of Holies guide us to do something far greater, more noble, than our own hubris might imagine. How do we recognise that something we might consider small and insignificant, is in fact the very great and wonderful thing we are asked to sow, plant and nurture?

As a Christian, I live in a paradox that exists between our culture’s arbitrary distinction between head, heart and spirit: my head admires the ministry of a Rabbi named Yeshua, my heart longs for the embrace of a relational God that I often find lacking in human connexion, and Spirit that yearns to let go, follow and inspire others. It’s often a spiral of questions, doubts, more questions and … periodically gifts of insight and revelation. It’s a paradox because too often these facets seem irreconcilable and so I default to one or the other and – frequently – the ego is there to assure me I know what’s what …

Flow

Flow
Photo: Kool Cats Photography

I know – for me – however, that this paradox finds resolution in the letting go part, again what the mystics alluded to as a veil pulled back that reveals everything is one. A revelation in which science and faith are not separated. It’s hard to explain such concepts as they only highlight the awkwardness and clumsiness of words. They really are an inadequate tool, especially about matters of the soul. So, let me leave you with where I have arrived with this musing thus far and – perhaps – you might continue this discussion through email, a comment, serendipity or social media …

In the 1970s a term was coined called ‘Flow.’ For me it speaks to one tangible aspect when I can gauge when I have let go … when I do so, my attention loses track of time and I can flow through a task, a moment, an event and then ‘awaken.’ It’s like I’ve walked into a time machine, come out on the other side with something accomplished, perhaps tired, but there’s a sense of … fullness? Fulfillment? Completeness? Purpose attained?

Words are awkward … but they are also so very exciting when they point to our commonalities that defy quantification, even though we might share their quality …

• What words might you use?
• Have you experienced such a sense of lost time?
• As though by letting go, you were letting in?

Blog links:

(Blog) A Deacon’s Musing: TED|Ep. 1

You know when one of those paths you walk converges and leads to something great? You know when you have spent a lot of time doing something, enjoying and learning and then life presents an opportunity for a moment of unexpected connexions? When separate aspects of yourself, hobbies or interests suddenly root deeply both personally and publicly? Well for me this happened this week!

Since 2006-ish, I have personally been inspired by a movement, organisation, and ideal encapsulated in TED. TED – for those who do not know – is an organisation that endeavours to embrace an ethos named in this way: “Ideas worth sharing.”

Though TED’s history reaches back to 1984, its current manifestations offer events, presentations and learning opportunities in a way that encourage action, fosters hope and presents examples of an alternative narrative to the story we too often hear in traditional media about deficit, degradation of the environment and oppression of human dignity. TED does not deny these exist, in fact they often confront them directly through the lived experience of scientists, artists, politicians and activists who have found and/or are designing ways to make change. As participants, TEDsters are implicitly expected to help bring about and support such ideas. After all, they are indeed worth sharing!

TEDxManitoba (2014)

TEDxManitoba (2014)
Photo: Richard Manley-Tannis

So back to that convergence … in Manitoba there are four independent TED organisations: Manitoba, Winnipeg, Youth and the University of Manitoba. This last week, I was overjoyed to attend – after being selected – TEDxManitoba. This was a rich, diverse, tear-filled, and laughter-wrenching celebration of some of the most creative ideas being fostered by men and women from Manitoba. It was – to say the least – both humbling and exciting!

What struck me as I tweeted madly away, was the sometimes implicit, most often explicit nature of social justice causes, environmental stewardship and the place of faith that threaded throughout. In some of the difficult and vulnerable places from which presenters had drawn strength, they illustrated how they had made the conscious choices to step into light and offer it to others through creative, innovative and fresh ideas

The other constant connexion was that regardless of motivation – faith or philosophical – was humility. There in the Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre, as enthralling speaker after another offered her or his challenge to the audience about how ‘to be the change,’ there was a lack of ego. There was certainly confidence, but not judgement. There was obviously clarity of thought, but not ideological polarity.

As I knew that I would be blogging about this experience (that’s one of the things expected of being a TEDster: share the ideas based on your context), I was aware that though faith was present, I was the only person tweeting from an explicit perspective of faith. Though I know that all of the work we have done as a denomination about generational awareness identifies that our ideals or social justice, environmental issues and questions of human dignity and diversity resonate strongly with the secular culture, we sometimes find ourselves ‘out of touch.’ In addition, it was made manifestly clear how sidelined we may have become.

In fact, while I heard so many things that resonate with our own work, I also realised we are generally not present in these contexts, which is not only a shame, but a loss for all. We have – as a faith expression – I believe, been quite instrumental in nurturing a secular culture so comfortable identifying issues of concern that we sometimes lose sight of that profound impact. And – when I try to reflect such organisations as TED as places of hope within our highways and byways, often people ask, “Who’s Ted?”

So … I am going to honour my promise to TEDxManitoba to share the ideas of TED. I am going to begin a 3rd regular feature for A Deacon’s Musing (the first is the serial story, Feather’s Fall serial story and – the second – the recently begun Vignettes) called TED|Episodes. The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and offer a musing about connexions, both secularly and internally to the church.

Knowing of such movements, I believe, allows us to recognise where we have been, in order that we might better name where we might be called. Perhaps, just as importantly to step with confidence to share in the pluralism about us a truth that resonates well outside of our walls …

TEDxManitoba 2014

TEDxManitoba 2014
Image: TEDxManitoba

I made a promise to TEDxManitoba (now known as TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. I committed to sharing their important (secular) work in my faith-based context. I have lived into that pledge by creating another recurring feature for A Deacon’s Musing : TED|Episodes (Two others are: 1: Feather’s Fall serial story; &, 2: Vignettes). The intent is to highlight one TED Talk in each episode and muse about connexions (both secularly and internally) to the church.

Episodes

Ep. 1: Pilot
Ep. 2: Farming Our Future: The Urban Agriculture Revolution
Ep. 3: Got Bannock? In honour of the village we once had
Ep. 4: What do you do after the bullets miss you?
Ep. 5: What is an inspiring encounter with human rights?

 

Blog links:

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